Free Tutorial, Part ONE: Gridlock (straight set)

There will be a second post for the version where the blocks are set on point, and I’ll link it here when I get the diagrams finished for that.


This quilt design uses an EQUAL NUMBER of 5″ Charm Squares and 2.5″ (by width-of-fabric) strips. You will be able to get 1/4 as many blocks as you have Charm Squares/Strips. In the sample above, I used a package of Timeless Treasures Batik Charm Squares and the matching package of strips, and there were 40 of each. I was able to get 10 blocks, plus enough to make a border around the quilt top. The photo above shows ALL of the remaining bits of fabric I had when I finished the quilt top. I used 9 of the 10 blocks in the quilt top, and will either put the 10th block on the back or make a matching pillow cover.

Divide your strips evenly into two piles. If you have doubles of each fabric, separate the pairs. Set one pile of strips aside; these will be used for sashing and borders later.

From the other half of the strips, cut:

2   5″ pieces

2   7″ pieces

2   6.5″ pieces

2   2.5″ squares (if you only have enough to get one 2.5″ square out of what’s left, that’s OK. You will only need 16 of these cornerstones)


STEP ONE. Using a scant 1/4″ seam, sew a 2.5″x5″ piece to the right-hand side of the charm square, and press the seam open or to the side (according to your preference).

gridlock step 01

STEP TWO. Sew a 2.5″ x 7″ piece to the top edge of the previous unit, and press the seam open or to the side.

gridlock step 02

STEP THREE. When you have finished sewing all of your charm squares into the above units, cut them diagonally from corner to corner, as shown. Try to go exactly through the corner where the three fabrics meet, but don’t worry if it’s not totally perfect. You’ll lose any excess in the seam allowance in the next step anyway. You can see below that my diagrams aren’t perfect. One does what one can in a surgical waiting room, and I’m living the “Big Magic” axiom right now: “Done is better than good.” It really and truly will not matter after the next step. I promise.

gridlock step 03

STEP FOUR: Shuffle your sets so that they’re mixed up a bit, and sew them back together. I was careful to orient the triangle halves to always match so that there are one of each type in each pairing so that the charm squares made half-square triangles with each other. Press the seams well according to your preference, and trim the squares to exactly 6.5″. If your seams are too wide, your squares will be too small, so be sure to check your first square to verify your accuracy before you get too far into the process. Yes, you WILL lose some corners where all of the fabrics come together. THIS IS OKAY. More important to the design is the DIAGONAL LINE. There is NO way to protect that corner in this design, because you just cut through it in the last step. It’s OK, I promise you.

gridlock step 04

STEP FIVE: Divide your squares into two piles. Sew a 2.5″ x 6.5″ strip to the right-hand side of one pile of your trimmed squares, as shown below. Press the seam according to your preference.

gridlock step 05

STEP SIX: Being careful to orient the second square properly, sew a remaining square to the right-hand side of each of the units from Step Five, and press the seam according to your preference.

gridlock step 06

STEP SEVEN: The blocks are assembled as shown below:

gridlock step 07

STEP EIGHT: From your remaining strips (set aside at the beginning), cut 24 14.5″ pieces. Use 16 of the 2.5″ squares from the first set of strips that you set aside.

Rows and sashings are assembled as shown below. I just used the same block and sashing colors over and over, but it would obviously look better mixed up a bit…

gridlock step 08

And here is an example of a completed quilt top (again… please disregard the spaces and minor inaccuracies caused by not really knowing what I’m doing in Adobe Illustrator and not taking the time to figure it out while in a surgical waiting room). This will be about 50.5″ wide (unfinished), so you could stop here if you wanted to do so and have a nice little throw!

gridlock quilt top

Or you could make BORDERS!

STEP NINE: Borders. Cut remaining strips into 4″ bricks. Each edge of the quilt top will need 25 bricks to go from outside cornerstone to outside cornerstone. Assemble 4 25-brick units by sewing them together on their long edges and pressing the seams open or to one side.

border bricks                                      (etc.)

Sew one each of the 25-brick units to the top and bottom of the quilt, matching up seams as much as possible. Before you attach the sections to the sides, make the corner units.

STEP TEN: Corner Units. Sew two pairs of bricks (as for the borders), and press the seams. Place them right sides together and match up all edges carefully. on the wrong side of the fabric on one of the pairs, mark a diagonal line from the corner to the opposite edge, following the 45-degree markings on your ruler. Repeat the marking from the opposite corner. Your markings will NOT go corner to corner. Please see the diagram below. These will be your sewing lines. (Please note that in my diagram the edges aren’t matched up, so that you can see that there are two pairs)

gridlock corner step 01              gridlock corner step 02

Sew on the sewing lines that you have drawn, and then cut the two sections apart between the sewing lines and press. Each set of 4 bricks will yield 2 different corners, as shown below.

gridlock corners opened

STEP ELEVEN. Attach the corners to the remaining two 25-brick border strips, as shown.

border corner assembly

And then you can attach the remaining two borders to the sides of the quilt top! I’m not going to finish out the diagram because I want to get this posted, but here’s the original quilt again in high-contrast batiks so you can see what the final layout looks like and the direction in which to attach the corners.


Hopefully I’ll get this one quilted and finished up over the Christmas holidays!

In Process: Improv Mini

So… When I made In Need of Repair, I discovered that you can do a LOT with a pre-made strata of improv-pieced strips. I have a few of these types of things in my sewing room, since they’re the types of in-betweener seams that I do when I’m putting together something else.


So. I grabbed one, and I started to play.

I hacked it up, and added more strips. And hacked. And added.


When I ran out of strips already cut in these colors, I stopped.

And in one night, I had a piece about 22″ x 30″. I’ll finish it and maybe list it on my Etsy and see what happens. It’s a fun little piece, even if it isn’t my usual colors.

A Rhinoceros in the Garden

So about five minutes before I knew jerry had been laid off this spring, I ordered a HUGE pile of Kona Cottons from Fat Quarter Shop (btw: I asked them to label each one in my “comments” and to my delight they DID. AWESOME.)
So yummy.   

Even more delicious when they arrived. Even though I felt tremendous guilt because of the job situation. I pet them for a long time. And arranged them. 

I daydreamed about them. 

And then one Friday night I made a little quiltie from them. 

Another night I cut strips off of all of them and started to play with improv circles. I’m not finished with this one yet. 

And a few weeks ago, I pulled a small group of fabrics from the collection and decided to try making something, but not having a plan before I started to sew. That had worked so well for A Semma Tree that I wanted to try it again.  

 The first night, this is what I had come up with. Negative space is hard for me, so rather than hack at it and overwork it, I left it on the design wall for the night. 

The next day, I still didn’t like the big chunk of greens, so I chopped them up a bit and added more. 

And then I decided it looked like a rhinoceros hiding in the garden — and it was as large as my cutting mat, so I trimmed it so all the edges were squared up.   

But I still had all the leftover big chunks from my original pieces that I had pulled , so I decided to play with the idea of having the same basic shape, but in different sizes– scale, unity, repetition. 

Birdie feet. 


Lots of birdie feet. This was fun, and appealed to the organized show-your-work mathematician side. 


They all hung out together on the design wall.   

But then, as birdies are wont to do, the birdie feet decided to get on the rhinoceros. And I covered the huge bothersome chunk of white fabric in the rhinoceros with a piece that had been trimmed off. I like it better. I haven’t inserted it yet but I will. I still haven’t sewn all of this together, but it makes me happy every time I look at it. 

 Everyone should have a rhinoceros hiding in their sewing room. Seriously. And birdie feet. Don’t forget the birdie feet. 

Finished: In Need of Repair

I have a habit of cutting off two 2-1/2″ strips of each fabric as it arrives, so that I don’t have the fear-of-cutting-into-it Blank Canvas Syndrome when it comes to treasured fabrics. But this creates another problem… What do I do with all of those fabric strips?

I decided to play. I cut each one into about 10″ sections, and sewed strips together randomly.

Pressing to one side, I used a straight edge to trim about half of each strip off.

Then I had lots of strips and small pieces. I sewed more strips together randomly.

When I ran out of sewn pairs, I split the remaining stack of pieces and sewed those together randomly.

Eventually, I had two 7-foot strata of 10″ strip-sets. And no plan. Hm….

I decided to cut 1-1/2″ wide strips of the strata and sew them between half-square triangles of my low volume neutral fabrics.

Since I have the attention span of a guppy, then I decided to make half-square triangles of the strata, and attach those to the HST of neutrals.

Kinda fun to play with.

This was cool, but it would have been really small. And not that interesting to look at, other than the color variances.

So then I played with tilting some of the 1-1/2″ stripset pieces into the neutral squares. YES, PLEASE.


And then quilting. I wanted the color to pop, so I quilted everything else with more neutral thread.

But obviously the outer corners would need more stabilization. And the interior sections were boring, so I traced them — over the other quilting — with purple thread. Much better. And then purple thread in the colors gave it just enough zing. Ella liked it too.

So did Friday, but he was feeling snobby.



Here it is, oriented properly on the fence outside. I named it “In Need of Repair,” since I made it during Exam Week last May, and it’s how I feel at the end of a long school year.

And here’s the back!